Free but Not Easy

During the pro-am in Tucson, I saw how the other half lives
March 06, 2006

As I lined up afour-foot birdie try on the par-4 13th hole, there were plenty of thoughts inmy head but only one audible voice. "Make the damn putt!" it shouted.The admonition came from PGA Tour player Todd Fischer, who despite the verbaljab, was my teammate in last week's Chrysler Classic of Tucson.

I missed the puttbut gained valuable insight: Pros love to needle their amateur partners buthate it when we miss a chance to help the team score. I also snared a glimpseof what it's like to go shot for shot with a Tour pro and to live like a guywho can drop $4,000 to play a round of golf, which is how much it costs to playthe pro-am.

I was in the fieldfree of charge thanks to an acquaintance at the Ventana Canyon Resort, my firstand only sponsor. I flew into Tucson the night before the tournament with highhopes and a bit of fear. Before play began, we drew to see which pro would playin our group. I had dreams of Nick Price or long-hitting fellow Texan HankKuehne. Instead we drew Fischer, a Bay Area product who describes his four-yearTour career as "a struggle ... frustrating" (sounds familiar). Fischerturned out to be a lot of fun, showing a healthy interest in the recent SISwimsuit Issue (no, I can't get you into the shoot, Todd) and recalling thewomen who followed his team during last year's Tucson pro-am. What do youexpect from a guy who once rented a limo to get from one Nationwide tour stopto the next?

Playing in a Tourpro-am ranked high on the coolness scale. For starters I had my own caddie,Cody Rathbun, a junior at Santa Rita High in Tucson. Cody not only had my nameemblazoned across the back of his bib, but he also didn't scoff at me when Ipitched my divots back to him after a good shot. Best of all I got to see ourteam's name high on the electronic leader board as we walked up the penultimatefairway. And while the golf was great, that was only half the story. The otherhalf? The swag. Enough clothes, balls and tournament tickets to open my ownblack market, plus a personal fitting at the Ping van and so much food that Ileft feeling like Jason Gore's body double.

Somehow I didrally to make a birdie (on the 364-yard par-4 16th) and four pars, which helpedour team tie for sixth. In the end I'm not sure if "Make the damnputt," ranks with "Take dead aim," but I'll take what I canget.

Art Stricklin isthe author of Links, Lore and Legends: The Story of Texas Golf (Roman &Littlefield).

TRUST ME by JIM GORANT

Michelle Wie's closing 66 was the clincher--she'll winan LPGA event this year.

PHOTOVAL CANEZ PROPOINTER
Fischer, who finished 51st at the Chrysler Classic, wanted the author (left) tohit it very, very far.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)